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Bad habits and how to break them

Smoking, nail biting, fast food, sitting all day or even wasting time online. Find out what you can do about it!
bad habits
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The first thing you need to know about bad habits is they are not all universal. Drinking too much is considered a bad habit to everyone, however, playing with your hair when you’re nervous is not. Some people think it is a bad habit, while others think it’s more of a nervous tick. Because of this, a bad habit has to be personally defined by you and your lifestyle.

A bad habit is generally something that causes issues in your personal life, like:

  • Finances
  • Personal relationships
  • Health
  • Employment
  • The law

There are many “undesirable” habits, like biting your nails or picking your nose. But these habits only need to be broken if you want to break them. They aren’t hurting anyone (although the gunk under your nails is pretty gross to be putting in your mouth!). If it doesn’t cause you personal problems, you don’t have to worry too much about breaking a habit. Unless you want to, of course.

If the habit is causing issues, it’s time to get serious!

Bad habits you should quit

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A bad habit ranges from something small, like biting your nails or talking too much. A bad habit can also refer to serious issues, like drinking or drug abuse. There’s no size limitation on a bad habit, but consider them anything that harms your day-to-day life. You may not even know you have some of these bad habits. They could be mindless activities you just do without thinking.

Let’s take a look at a sample of bad habits:

  • Wearing too much make-up
  • Wearing shoes that aren’t good for posture
  • Dressing improper for the weather
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not eating breakfast
  • Eating unhealthy foods (like fast food or processed food)
  • Unhealthy snacking
  • Excessive eating
  • Not eating enough
  • Not getting the proper amount of sleep
  • Spending too much time on electronic devices
  • Working too hard
  • Not giving yourself a rest
  • Too much stress
  • Lack of motivation
  • Drinking too much caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, etc)
  • Smoking
  • Sex addiction
  • Gambling
  • Drug abuse
  • Drinking
  • Negative self-talk (“I’m stupid” “I suck at everything” etc)

As you can see, there is quite a bit of variety on this list. At the core, everything on this list relates to your overall health. Each habit is linked together to reduce your quality of life. Even if you only have one or two of these bad habits, you may want to look into changing them.

Remember: It’s never too late to break a bad habit! If you’re worried about quitting something being a shock to your system, you can always speak to your doctor. You might be able to come to an agreement you feel comfortable tackling. Ignoring a bad habit doesn’t make it go away.

How to break your bad habits

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Different habits take different steps to be able to break free from. Personally, using nail polish is a great way to stop biting nails (because the polish tastes so bad). Lollipops can be helpful to quit or reduce smoking. There are tricks you can use for almost any bad habit, big or small.

However, every bad habit requires the following 5 steps:

1. Make a decision

No matter what your bad habit is, quitting starts with one step: Decide you want a change. You can’t force yourself to ditch a habit you have because you’ll be less likely to succeed. You have to want the change for yourself.

2. Understand the habit

The next step to breaking a bad habit is to understand where this habit comes from. Can you pinpoint when you started? What was the reason? Do you still feel that way? Is there anything else you can do to cope with those feelings instead of this habit?

3. Be S.M.A.R.T.

stopping bad habits
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Now that you know more about your habit and what causes it, you can learn to break it down. You won’t want to tackle the whole habit at once. Start by cutting back or replacing your bad habit with a healthy one. Use a S.M.A.R.T. goal planner to get moving in the right direction.

4. Track your progress

It’s important to track your progress and see how far you’re making it. This allows you to know when there are challenges as well as when you’re doing a great job. You may notice bad habits seem to happen when you’re under a lot of stress. If this is something you notice, you can tackle stress reduction.

5. Stay motivated

It’s easy to lose focus or slip up, but you can’t beat yourself up about it. Give yourself reminders or positive affirmations. Making a mistake doesn’t mean you’re back at square one. Keep going. Maybe ask someone to help motivate you. Offer yourself a reward for your hard work too.

These 5 steps aren’t exactly easy. When you’re first getting into the habit of tracking, you can forget. You can also feel like it’s not worth or that you don’t have enough time. Knowing your progress is a key element to being able to overcome obstacles.

Why is it so hard to break a bad habit?

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Human beings tend to be rigid thinkers. This means we stick to our patterns and don’t care for change. When we are in these behavioral patterns, we often fall victim to self-pity or blaming other people. For instance: I don’t get along with my spouse, so I have to drink. Instead, challenge your thoughts! Download a CBT tool called the “Thought Record” and use it to break your bad habits. This will help you to understand what triggers your bad habits and help you learn to break them.

Again, it isn’t really easy. It will take hard work and persistence. But if you can learn to change your thinking, you can free yourself from any bad habits.

If you’re having trouble challenging your own thoughts, you can consider signing up for a support group. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a great resource for breaking bad habits and learning to control emotional regulation. You may not have a support group in your area, but you can always look online. If you’re not comfortable with group-based work, you can buy a workbook from Barnes and Noble. This way, you can tackle these new concepts at your own pace and learn in an environment that’s conducive for you.

Remember: It’s not always about what you’re learning. Sometimes, it’s about how you’re choosing to learn. When one solution doesn’t work, try a different one.

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